be simplified so that they are more accessible to the people
of our state? It would be wonderful to have the equivalent of
a 1040 EZ for certain family law issues. Not everyone would
be able to use a simplified form, but many could.
Lawyers should be looking at alternative ways to address
the needs of the 85 percent. Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs) are a great start (see the article on page 20),
but they are still focused on the human-to-human model.
The WSBA Moderate Means Program is also a wonderful
solution, but it is based on the lawyer-to-lawyer model.
There are innovative ideas out there to address legal needs
without the need for a lawyer and maybe a limited or no
need for another human. These ideas are coming to life in
courthouses and in the private marketplace. These are not
one-size-fits-all solutions by any means, but they are worth
considering to address particular needs.
by Kirsten Barron
Future of the Profession continues the discussion initiated at the WSBA’s Mission Possible: Choose the Future of
Your Practice forum and will appear in each issue throughout the year. Your participation in the conversation is welcome and encouraged.
Iam a business lawyer and my clients would be very excited to enter a market where 85 percent of the customers’ needs were unmet. Sounds like a gravy train, right? Actually, 85 is the percentage of people in our state with unmet legal needs. Eighty-five percent of our customers are not served. As lawyers, we control the number of lawyers admitted to practice
and to a large degree how law is practiced. Additionally, we
perceive that our services need to be compensated at a particular level. Our work is demanding, stressful, and consequential, so it is understandable that people who do it have
certain income expectations. However, those realities mean
that access to legal services is not available to the vast majority of our population.
Lawyers have been at this for hundreds and hundreds of
years. Let’s assume for the moment that lawyers were lawyering since Europeans began immigrating to this continent in the early 1600s — that is almost 400 years ago. And
yet we are unable to meet 85 percent of the civil legal needs
of our people. Based on preliminary information from the
civil legal needs study currently in process, that number
is not expected to improve any time soon. Lawyers have
not solved the problem — and it is our problem, because we
control the market.
Looking at Models
We are wedded to this idea that every client needs a lawyer,
even though we know it is not possible, given the constellation of client needs and the resources available to meet
those needs. I suggest it is time to think about different models. I suggest we consider whether there are some kinds of
legal problems that could be addressed by models of service
without lawyers — and maybe even a model without humans.
I suggest that particular areas of the law be accessible to the
majority of the population. For example, over 50 percent of
us will someday need to access the court system to deal with
family law issues. Can family law and other areas of the law
Future of the Profession
Access to Justice
Why Innovation Is Critical
Kevin Stock has been very innovative as the clerk in
Pierce County. He has set up a kiosk in his Clerk’s Office to
provide almost one-stop service for court users seeking a
temporary restraining order. A court user can take many of
the steps required to obtain a temporary restraining order
at the kiosk and kiosks throughout Pierce County — even at
the Y WCA.
There are a number of interesting apps (for your smartphone) that provide legal assistance. Some apps are simply
ways for a client to connect to a lawyer or get questions
answered (Ask a Lawyer and BernieSez). There is an app
that can help children without status through the DACA
process (PocketDACA). An app in Illinois walks people
through the process and steps of many legal issues, such as
divorce and guardianship (Illinois Legal Aid App). An app
called DISASTR provides legal information and resources
for people involved in a disaster. Even the federal government has gotten into the app game. There is an app from the
U.S. Department of Labor to assist workers in determining
whether their compensation has been accurately calculated.
People with low incomes often have access to a smartphone,
WASHINGTON NOW HAS A SMALL
LABORATORY TO TEST HOW NON-LAWYER OWNERSHIP AFFECTS
ACCESS TO JUSTICE.